Same Old One-Sided Moralization

One day, writing for multiple newspapers across the country will require evidence of such thinking as is appropriate of mature adults. That fantasy came to mind upon reading this by L.A. Times writer Neal Gabler:

… over the last 30 years or so, something has happened to reshape the country’s moral geography. Everyone knows about the rise of Moral Majority-style Christian evangelicals as a potent force in right-wing politics. It injected a certain aggressive moralism into our political discourse and led to campaigns against abortion rights, homosexual rights, sexual freedom and other issues perceived as and then framed as moral matters. As a result, our politics became “moralized”; they were transformed into a contest of one set of values pitted against another.
This was hardly the first time politics was overtaken by morality. One has only to think of abolition and Prohibition. The difference this time was that as politics were being moralized and polarized, our morals were also being politicized and polarized. The two moral systems that had so long coexisted suddenly became mutually exclusive, oppositional and finally inseparable from the two regnant political ideologies.

His description of those “two moral systems” is sufficient to see where Gabler’s thinking goes off the tracks:

On the one hand, there is the Puritan-inflected America of rugged individualism, hard work, self-reliance and personal responsibility in which you reap what you sow, God helps those who help themselves, and our highest obligation is to live righteously. …
On the other hand, there is also an America of community, common cause, charity and collective responsibility.

Only a liberal intent on maintaining the specious claim of his ideological allies on the principle of “compassion” could pit the nation’s Puritan heritage against the notion of community. After all, the first American instance of public citation of Jesus’ description of the people as a “city upon a hill” occurred just before John Winthrop actually set foot upon the land.
One’s individual moral righteousness, in this view, is to serve as an indication of the moral righteousness of the community. One takes personal responsibility, in short, for the good of the community. Lacking self reliance makes one a burden to the collective, whether (in a religious sense) by attracting the ire of God or (in a secular sense) draining resources and introducing unneeded distractions.
Of course, it isn’t necessary to get into such deep political philosophy in order to see the immaturity of Gabler’s complaint against evangelicals: The notion that it was an objectionable and new “aggressive moralism” that prompted “campaigns against abortion rights, homosexual rights, sexual freedom and other issues” is self refuting. Only through the blind ideological assertion that abortion and movement toward libertinism are in some sense ideologically neutral can defense against them be termed as “aggressive.”
The belief that individuals ought to have free sexual rein without social or legal censure from the community is actually the break in the balance between the “two moral systems” (to the extent that they were every distinct in the first place). The refusal to maintain social norms that fostered the ascension of Western Civilization and the United States transforms self-reliance into self-indulgence and discounts the claim of the collective on the behavior of the individual. We can argue about where that line should be and whether it ought to be enforced in law or in culture, but clearly what we’re thereby adjusting is the fulcrum on which our society balances.
What emerges aren’t two moral systems, much less a subjective morality versus an objective belief in liberty, but rather two sets of priorities with drastic differences in civic implications. On one side are those who believe that a certain moral framework and self restraint are indispensable to economic and political independence and who seek, therefore, to craft a society that fortifies such a framework so as to enable citizens to be maximally free where it matters. It’s a long, slow, and messy process, to be sure, sifting through various aspects of behavior to determine which truly erode what’s important and which are negated proscriptions handed down from the past, but that doesn’t mean that all proscriptions are arbitrary.
On the other side are those who profess to believe that no judgment should exist when it comes to lifestyle and that a compassionate society will, in turn, mitigate the consequences of behavior through public economic support in exchange for political support of a top-down collective. This is repeatedly proven to be a subjective guide, inasmuch as those who have dogged compassion for the sexually permissive have no compunction about dictating, say, dietary rules. The principle, such as it is, appears to be that people should be free to do things that increase their likelihood of dependency.

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ANTHONY
ANTHONY
11 years ago

Actually this is the new religion of Hussein in the White House. “Community” organizer turned President. Hussein is teaching us the religion of community and respect for mother gaia….AKA the “green” movement. There is no room for the Creator in the religion of the “liberal” left.

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